These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Take your Bibles and open them to Mark 4. We are currently going through the gospel of Mark. We are learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We are discovering who Jesus is, what He can do, and what His kingdom is all about. We are learning how to live for Him and because of Him.
Jesus has been doing a lot of miracles up to this point and He now switches His emphasis to helping His followers understand His kingdom and the spiritual world. To help His followers understand His kingdom He has been telling parables that are illustrations and object lessons that take something physical to help us understand something spiritual.
Today we come to the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29…
Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” (NLT)
There are two important perspectives regarding this parable. The first perspective deals with God’s role in the spiritual growth of people and the second perspective deals with our role in the spiritual growth of people. Because of the significance of this short little parable about a growing seed what it means for our own spiritual growth and the growth of others we will spend one lesson on God’s part in spiritual growth and then another lesson on our part in spiritual growth.
Let’s begin with God’s part.
Jesus begins this parable by saying “The Kingdom of God….” The Kingdom of God is a huge subject. It refers to the realm of salvation. There are three major aspects of salvation.
- Salvation past: Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been savedthrough faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (NASB; see also 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). This focuses on what God did for me in the past. When I confessed my sin to Him and placed my faith in Jesus He forgave me of my sins. I was saved from the penalty of sin. This is called justification. Positionally I am in Christ and forgiven.
- Salvation present: 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (NASB; see also Philip. 2:12; Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:19-20; 2 Cor. 3:18). This focusing on what God is doing in my life right now. He is saving me from the power of sin. By His Word and His Spirit I am growing spiritually. I am learning how to walk in victory. This is called sanctification. I am being saved from the power of sin.
- Salvation future: Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be savedfrom the wrath of God through Him” (NASB; see also Rom. 8:24; 13:11; 1 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1;13; 1 Thess. 5:8). This focused on what God is going to do for you in the future. When you die as a believer or when Christ returns you will receive the complete package of your salvation. You will be saved from the very presence of sin. You will receive a resurrected body and a glorious home in heaven where there is no sin. This is called glorification. You will be saved from the presence of sin.
To help us understand the kingdom of God (kingdom of salvation) Jesus gives us this little parable about a little seed that grows, which is simple and complex at the same time. To frame this parable in such a way that I think will be helpful to understanding what Jesus is teaching us here we need to think about our spiritual growth from a salvational perspective (justification, sanctification, glorification). When I say “spiritual growth” I mean salvation in its fullest since.
So, let’s just dive into this and see where God takes us. Remember, today we are looking at this from God’s perspective. God’s part in our spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth involves God’s Word
Number one, spiritual growth involves God’s Word. In verse 26 Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.” The “seed” refers to the Word of God. How do we know that? Jesus has already told us this. At the beginning of Mark 4 Jesus tells a parable about a farmer spreading seed on four different types of ground and in verse 13 Jesus says, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?” The first parable Jesus tells us will help us understand the other parables including the parable of the growing seed. Jesus tells us in verse 14 that the “seed” is “God’s Word.”
Without a “seed” nothing is going to grow. Every farmer and gardener knows that you can have great soil, great ground, water, and sun and nutrients but if you don’t have a seed nothing is going to grow.
To grow spiritually the Word of God must be planted in you. You must have God’s Word planted into your life.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (NLT). The “seed” of all scripture must be planted into our lives if we are going to grow spiritually. You cannot grow spiritually without it.
- 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation” (NLT). The context of 1 Peter 2 is the Word of God and the “spiritual milk” Peter is referring to is God’s Word. God’s Word helps you to “grow into a full experience of salvation” (past, present, and future).
The kingdom of God is like this. It’s like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Once this seed falls on good ground something incredible happens. This takes us to observation number two.
Spiritual growth involves God’s timing
Number two, spiritual growth involves God’s timing. Jesus goes on to say, “Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” The farmer plants the seed. He goes home. Many nights pass. Many days pass. Some days it sunny. Some days it raining. The farmer has other things to do. Taking care of livestock, his family, repairing his house, helping the neighbor. There may be some days where he doesn’t think much about the seed, but at the right time “the seed sprouts and grows.” Even though the farmer “does not understand how it happens” something starts to grow from that little seed.
Through someone like you, you share the gospel… you tell them about Jesus… share your testimony… give Biblical and wise advice… you plant the seed of God’s Word into their life. You go home. You sleep. You wait. Days pass. Nights pass. In some cases, years pass by and then one day “the seed” that was planted sometime in the past “sprouts and grows.” That person gives their life to Jesus. They are still rough around the edges, but there is growth. You “do not understand how it happens” that a seed planted today in their life begins to grow much later, but it does. Spiritual growth is about God’s timing, not yours. The Kingdom of God is like this.
Spiritual growth involves God’s power
Number three, spiritual growth involves God’s power. Look closely at what Jesus says in verse 28, “The earth produces the crops on its own.” Some translations say, “The soil produces crops by itself” (NASB) or “the earth does it all without his help” (Msg) or “the earth produces by itself” (ESV). What is Jesus really saying here? What’s the emphasis?
We need to go to language school for just a moment. The New Testament was originally written in Greek, by God’s design and plan. Two things you need to see here.
- The phrase “on its own” is significant. That phrase comes from the Greek word automatos. We get our word automate and automatic from it. Automatos means there is something in the seed that is inherent, innate, and intrinsic that produces growth. You see this automatos effect on seeds everywhere. A seed falls in the middle of a field and a wild flower grows. No farmer planted it or watered it or anything. God has built into and designed the seed with innate power that once its planted in good ground will grow. It’s automatic. It’s automatos.
God’s Word, the “seed” in this parable has this automatos power in it. Once God’s Word is planted in good ground it will grow. It’s automatic. It will take time, but it will grow. Many days and nights may come and go, but the automatos effect is taking place under the surface. You may not be able to see it, but its happening. The automatos of God’s Word is working in the heart and mind of that person, and someone is about to change.
- That was Greek lesson number one. Here is Greek lesson number two. The Greek language is not like our English language. In the Greek language the placement of words helps to determine what is being emphasized in that statement. For example, we say, “The earth produces the crops on it own.” We put the phrase “on its own” at the end of the sentence. As a matter fact, most translations do this. However, in the Greek language the phrase “on its own” (automatos) is placed at the beginning to give it emphasis. Literally, with emphasis, Jesus said, “ON ITS OWN, the earth produces the crops.” With no help from the farmer the seed that was planted takes root, grows, and produces.
The kingdom of God is like that. The Word of God has built in power that comes from God. Once the word of God is planted it does not need your help to do what it is about to do in that person’s life. This takes the pressure off of you. You spread the Word, give Biblical counsel, share the gospel, teach God’s Word, give Biblical advice. If it falls on good ground eventually a harvest that honors God will come from that life because God’s Word automatically and spontaneously began to work in their life.
This is what Paul was talking about when he said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes” (NLT). That’s the automatos of God’s Word.
The writer of Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (NLT). That’s the automatos of God’s Word.
In Isaiah 55:10 God said, “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (vs. 10-11, NLT). That’s the automatos of God’s Word.
The automatos of God’s Word is a demonstration of the sovereign power of God’s Word in a person’s life. What you wish you could actually do for others, God’s Word actually can do it. Plant the seed, get out of the way and let the automatos of God’s word do its thing.
This is what the kingdom of God is like.
Spiritual growth involves God’s process
Number four, spiritual growth involves God’s process. There is a process to spiritual growth. There are steps to our growth and we cannot skip any of them even if we wanted to. Jesus said in verse 28, “First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens” (NLT). So far, we have seen God’s divine power in the automatos of God’s Word, but now we see God’s divine order in the process of growth.
- Let’s go back to the word automatos. It also carries the idea of inevitable. It is automatic. It will happen. There is no stopping this. Once the seed finds good ground and takes root “a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.” It’s going to happen. It’s unstoppable. This process of growth is a divine process built into the DNA of the seed.
Jesus highlights the three stages of the growth of wheat to help us understand the kingdom of God. Let’s connect this to the three tenses of salvation.
- In the first stage Jesus says, “a leaf blade pushes through” – I believe this can represent the stage where we say, “I was saved.” I was blind, but now I see.” I don’t know much, I don’t understand much. I’m still rough around the edges. I’m a new believer. Still have a lot of worldliness I’m dealing with, but I’m a new born. I may be a spiritual infant, but I’m growing. Be patient. Let God work on me. Give me time. Don’t rush.”
- In the second stage Jesus says, “then the heads of wheat are formed” – I believe this can represent the stage where we say, “I am being saved.” I am definitely not what I used to be. I have grown and am growing and you can clearly see it. I’m the real deal. I’m not shallow ground. I’m headed to maturity. I am a disciple. I may not be making disciples right now, but I’m about to make disciples for Jesus.
- In the final stage Jesus says, “and finally the grain ripens” – I believe this can represent becoming mature in Christ and maybe even where we can say, “I have fought the good fight. I have planted the seed of God’s Word throughout part of my life. I have made disciples. I have encouraged the believers. I have been God’s lamp in places of darkness. Even though I fell many times, I got back up. I’m not perfect, but I’m a mature believer helping to make mature believers. Even though part of me wants to stay and minister, there is a part of me that really wants to go on to heaven. I am ripe.”
Everyone’s spiritual growth is a divine process. Your spiritual growth and others is like a “leaf blade that pushes through then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.” The Kingdom of God is like this.
Spiritual growth involves God’s harvest
Number five, spiritual growth involves God’s harvest. Jesus said in verse 29, “And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come” (NLT). The farmer who planted the seed and let God’s sovereign power do its work comes along and gets to enjoy the “harvest” that comes from that person’s life. That’s what the kingdom of God is like.
- You share the gospel, you share God’s Word. Someone receives it into their heart. But you don’t know it yet. You pray for them. You don’t see any change. But something is happening inside them. Then you see a little “leaf” of righteousness and obedience and hunger for God and His Word. It’s not much, but it wasn’t there before but now its there. That leaf turns into a “head of wheat” with substance and there is no doubt they are a believer. It’s plainly evident and then they “ripen.” They are a mature believe blessing others, investing in others, sharing the gospel, significant part of the body of believers, they are caring, loving, gentle, joyful, and patience. They are producing much fruit from their lives.
As the farmer who God used to plant the seed that started all of this, you get to enjoy either here on earth or in heaven with them or both.
The parable of the growing seed does several things for us:
- It takes the pressure off of you to cause someone to grow spiritually. You are the farmer, just plant the seed of God’s Word and the automatic power of God’s Word do it work. God is in control of this. This is His kingdom.
- You don’t have to get in a hurry over someone’s spiritual growth. If it will happen, it will happen based on God’s timing. God is in control of this. This is His kingdom.
- When it’s all said and done you can enjoy the harvest that comes from their life. God used you and now you get to enjoy the results. God is in control this. This is His kingdom.
- Your own spiritual growth and others is a demonstration of the power of God’s Word. It demonstrates the automatos of the Word of God. Even if you don’t understand how it works, you can trust it, count on it and depend on it. Be the farmer, spread the seed, trust God’s power to grow in good ground and enjoy the harvest when it ripens.
This is what the kingdom of God is like.